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Driving tips

10 easy ways to beat gas prices

These tips will keep your costs down as prices go up

Published July 18, 2013
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I stopped in at my local gas station and was shocked to see gas prices pushing $1.35 a litre. Apparently those who manipulate our oil prices are feeling somewhat nervous about global politics. Sounds like a good excuse to squeeze the consumers.

But we can fight back — and it’s not as hard as you might think.

Other than buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle, the most effective way to decrease your fuel costs and keep more of your money in your pockets rather than in the “big oil” companies’ pockets is to alter your driving style.

Related: Where gas prices are headed this summer

Here are 10 easy steps that can reduce your fuel costs by an impressive 30 to 50 per cent.

1. Look farther up the road and plan ahead. Don’t rush up to stop signs or red lights and brake hard. Slow down gradually and  the light may even change to green by the time you arrive at it. Accelerating up to speed uses the most fuel.

2. Drive more  smoothly. Your gas pedal is not an on-off switch, so once you’re up to speed, try to maintain a steady throttle. Constantly adjusting the throttle will use considerably more fuel. Drive at a steady speed in the right lane. In heavier traffic, the speed at which the left lane travels varies much more than the right lane, causing wasteful braking and acceleration. Don’t allow yourself to get trapped into the “yo-yo” effect of driving in stop-and-go traffic, which greatly wastes fuel. Try to keep a steady speed. I have practised this driving technique in Toronto rush hour traffic and it works.

3. Leave more space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front. In this manner, if they slow to turn, they won’t force you to slow down, which then forces you to accelerate back up to speed.

4. Slow it down a bit. High speeds equate to higher fuel consumption in a dramatic way. Wind resistance increases as the square of the speed. In other words, if you double your speed, the drag from pushing your vehicle through the air increases four fold. The required engine power and the resulting extra fuel consumption will increase even more so. Driving at 120 km/h can use 20 per cent more fuel than driving at 100 km/h. If you have a large vehicle, which incurs even greater wind resistance, slowing down helps even more.

5.  Larger vehicles incur much greater wind resistance from increased frontal area compared to smaller vehicles. It has always amazed me to see some of the largest vehicles on our roads travel at the fastest speeds. If you drive a large vehicle such as a pick-up truck or SUV, slowing down helps even more.

6. Remove roof racks and any other add-ons when not in use to further reduce drag.

7. Remove any unnecessary objects and freight. Any extra weight in your vehicle will also diminish fuel mileage.

8. Get out of the Drive-Thru lane. Don’t let the engine idle, shut it off. Avoid the “Drive-Thru” line of waste. Park the vehicle and walk into the restaurant or bank. This will save fuel, pollution and time.

9. Avoid roads that have steep hills or heavy traffic when possible. Often, a slightly longer route with less hills and/or traffic will yield better fuel economy.

10. Plan your daily route to combine driving chores in one trip. This reduces the number of times you start up your vehicle. Your vehicle gets its worst fuel economy on start-up and when cold. The fewer start-ups you have, the better the fuel economy and the less wear on your engine. Plan most of your trips to avoid rush hour.

When it comes to your vehicle, these tips can also help:

  • Keep your vehicle well-tuned. Clean air filters and new spark plugs etc. all help to maximize combustion efficiency. Using synthetic oils has also shown to increase fuel economy by up to 10 per cent. My fuel mileage increase by 10 per cent when I switched over to Mobil 1 synthetic oil.
  • Maintain the correct tire pressures. This is probably the easiest thing for each motorist to do, but is the most ignored. A tire that is only 3 psi below recommended inflation pressures will result in a 2 per cnet reduction in fuel economy per tire. In other words, if three of your four tires are under inflated by only 3 psi, you could be losing up to 10 per cent on your fuel mileage! Your Owner’s Manual will give you a recommended tire pressure. This is actually a little on the soft side for a comfortable ride. You’ll get better fuel economy and handling by inflating your tires 3 to 5 psi above the recommended pressure.
  • When replacing your tires, look for tires designed to decrease rolling resistanc, which will increase fuel mileage. The Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max is one example.

Collectively, we all have the power to make a difference. Reduce demand by using less fuel and we won’t be so helpless.

Related: Where gas prices are headed this summer (hint: not down)

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